Bruce expects Henderson to stay

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has revealed the Premier League's big guns have all made enquiries about Jordan Henderson but remains confident the highly-rated midfielder will still be at the Stadium of Light next season.

The 20-year-old has again been linked with a summer move to Manchester United but, although he accepts Henderson will eventually move on, Bruce does not expect that to be for another couple of seasons at least.

He said: "It's fair to say that all of the big managers all around the country have asked to be kept informed if we ever decide to sell Jordan Henderson.

"But I think the kid and his dad see the next couple of seasons as the most vital for Jordan. We see it and he sees it, which is the most important thing for me, that Sunderland is the right club for him at this particular moment.

"There will come a time undoubtedly when he'll want to go and play in the Champions League and want to win Champions League trophies and further his England career. But I think, for the next couple of years at least, this is the place for him to learn his trade.

"Where is there another 20-year-old who has played for the last 18 months in the Premier League? There aren't many."

While local rivals Newcastle hit the headlines on transfer deadline day following Liverpool's bid for Andy Carroll, Bruce was left to reflect on an up-and-down month off the pitch.

Sunderland completed the signing of playmaker Stephane Sessegnon from Paris St Germain and a loan deal for Inter Milan winger Sulley Muntari over the weekend while fringe players David Healy, Andy Reid and Paulo Da Silva have left the club.

But they have all been overshadowed by star striker Darren Bent's move to Aston Villa earlier this month, with Bruce frustrated in his efforts to sign a replacement.

He said: "I'm delighted with the work we've done. I'm delighted to bring in Sessegnon and Muntari. Of course, halfway through the window we didn't expect the sale of Darren, and all the time we were looking to bring in reinforcements in midfield.

"That changed our thinking a little bit but it just goes to show how far the club has come that we can attract players from Paris St Germain and Inter Milan to come and play here. If somebody had told me that 18 months ago, I wouldn't have believed it.

"The progress we've made has enabled us to bring in two quality players like those two so I think the squad is stronger in that respect. The big problem is the loss of Darren.

"It's rocked us in that department and it's fair to say we were looking (at strikers) but the people we've tried to bring to the club, it hasn't been possible, so we'll just have to wait."

Bent's sale means Bruce has been left short of options up front, with injuries to Danny Welbeck and Fraizer Campbell leaving only Asamoah Gyan as a recognised striker, although Sessegnon can also play in that role.

Bruce, though, is hopeful Sunderland's fine run in the Premier League will not be jeopardised, saying: "We've only got six games in the next eight weeks so, by the time April and May come around, where we've got eight games, we should have the whole squad fit.

"It's not really a gamble because realistically there's nobody who can come and be better than what we've already got at this particular moment. A gamble would be for me to go and bring in somebody short term, and that doesn't usually work."

Sixth-placed Sunderland welcome reigning champions Chelsea to the Stadium of Light tomorrow looking for a repeat of their stunning 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge in November.

Sessegnon will make his debut but former Portsmouth player Muntari has headed back to Italy to sort out his visa so will have to wait until Saturday's trip to Stoke.

Injuries continue to cause problems for Bruce, with Boudewijn Zenden picking up a knee problem in training and set to join Welbeck, Campbell, David Meyler and Michael Turner on the sidelines.

However, captain Lee Cattermole could return from a back problem and John Mensah (ankle) is vying for a starting place after making the bench for the 2-1 win at Blackpool nine days ago.

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